Sleep Awareness Week 2018: The Effects of Sleep on Mental Health
The National Sleep Foundation aims to raise awareness on the importance of sleep to each and every individual in relation to their health and well-being in each aspect of their lives. So, you may or may not be aware that this week, from the 11th to 17th of March, is Sleep Awareness Week.
Just last year, in January 2017, 5,002 UK adults were surveyed on behalf of The Sleep Council revealing that despite there being a recommended 8 hours, around 74% of Brits sleep for 7 hours or less per night with 61% of those questioned admitted to getting approximately 5 hours.
Sleep is a vital part of our everyday lives for many reasons. Continuous sleep deprivation can lead to a variety of physical health conditions such as kidney disease, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease, to name but a few. This is because whilst we sleep, our body takes the opportunity to heal and repair our heart and blood vessels. But sleep isn't only important for maintaining a good physical health, it's also essential for our mental health.
Signs You Aren't Getting Enough Sleep
1.You suffer from acne and breakouts regularly. If your hormones are out of balance, something that is usually controlled by sleep then your skin may show the effects.
2.Tired eyes. If your eyes are dark underneath, show signs of puffiness or fine lines and wrinkles then you probably aren't sleeping enough.
3.You're always hungry and craving fatty or sugary foods.
4.You've gained weight. This is because when you don't sleep enough,your body is unable to control the hormones that affect how hungry you feel.
5.You've lost your inhibition i.e.lashing out, making bad choices. When you're tired you tend to act without thinking of the consequences like you normally would after a good nights sleep.
6.Feeling depressed, moody or overemotional.
7.Your memory is bad. Sleep is a vital part of memory consolidation.
8.Clumsy. When you are tired your reaction times and concentration are lowered making it more difficult to more around with ease.
Impact of Sleep on Mental Health
How much and how well we sleep has a huge impact on our mood. Often when we get a poor sleep we end up grouchy and irritable the following day and so it's no surprise that sleeping too little or too much will have an impact on our mental health and well-being.
Research has shown us that sleep disturbance is a present factor in nearly all psychiatric disorders but what many people do not know is that those who suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea are actually at high risk of developing a mood disorder like anxiety or depression. Of course this doesn't mean that everyone who has trouble sleeping will end up with a psychiatric condition but the chances of developing these types of conditions is raised considerably in these instances.
In the same token, if you have mental health condition prior to your sleep disturbances then changing your sleeping patterns isn't going to get rid of it, because your sleeping issues in this case are symptoms. However working on getting a better nights sleep can alleviate some of your symptoms therefore making the disorder itself more manageable.
Solutions for Getting a Better Sleep
- Try to figure out exactly how much sleep you get each night and what wakes you up if anything. This can be done using a journal kept beside your bed or even a phone app.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT is a therapy that works on developing positive thoughts, helpful strategies and building self awareness and has proven to be very useful in helping those with sleep disorders like Insomnia.
- Get into a routine. Before bedtime try to keep things relaxing like taking a long bath with chamomile and lavender, read a book and get comfortable. Avoid using technology before bed as the lights have a stimulating effect on the brain making it hard to fall asleep.
- Make sure your mattress is comfortable and also the right fit for your needs. A mattress should be replaced every 5-10 years.
- Don't smoke.
- Try meditation or yoga to relax.
- Breathing techniques.
- If there is something keeping you awake, act on it. Whether it be a snoring partner or a task you have been putting off, resolve whatever it is and hopefully you will sleep better.
- Natural remedies like vitamins, kalms sleep and sleep sprays for your pillows are often a great way of helping you sleep.
- Eating foods high in magnesium.
- Consider seeing your GP. Sometimes no matter how hard you try nothing seems to change. By keeping a journal and showing your GP they should be able to gain a better understanding of what you are going through.
What keeps you up at night?
How many hours sleep do you get each night?
Sleep is so important to your overall well-being and you don't have to struggle with sleeping issues alone. There are plenty of support networks and remedies that can help you get back to feeling like yourself.
If you have trouble sleeping and want to share your experiences or advice for others in the same position then feel free to use the comments section below.
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